Danish word of the day: Isdøgn

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Danish word of the day: Isdøgn

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash and Nicolas Raymond/FlickR

Today’s word of the day is isdøgn, a climatological compound word which describes a full day of freezing temperatures.


What is isdøgn?

The first half of this word, is, comes from Old Norse íss, which in turn has the same Proto-Germanic root as the English word "ice". It’s featured in a number of other compound words like iskoldt (ice cold), istap (icicle) and is (ice cream or ice lolly).

Is is also used in some phrases and idioms, such as bryde isen (break the ice), have is i maven (to keep your cool, but literally "to have ice in your belly") and ingen ko på isen (this is short for der er ingen ko på isen, så længe rumpen er i land or "there’s no cow on the ice as long as the buttock is on land". A good English translation would be "the coast is clear", ot “there’s no imminent danger”).

Døgn is a useful Danish word that doesn’t have an exact English translation but can both mean “a day” or “a 24-hour period”. It’s usually used in preference to the more common dag (“day”) when talking about the amount of time within a day, and not to the day in general.

We’ve previously written about døgn in the context of jævndøgn, the Danish word for equinox.

A store that is open 24 hours a day is described as døgnåbent, “24-hour-open”. If you arbejder døgnet rundt you work all hours of the day.

If you wanted to talk about a day more generally, you would use the word dag: Jeg har været vågen hele dagen! (“I’ve been awake all day” (from morning to evening)).

Staying awake during the daytime isn’t particularly shocking or impressive, but telling someone you’ve been awake for a full 24-hour period would most likely spark their curiosity.


Why do I need to know isdøgn?

As you may have figured out, this term, literally “ice day”, refers to a 24 hour period of ice, or more specifically, a 24 hour period of temperatures below freezing.

Technically, this is a 24-hour period during which all of Denmark’s weather stations record a maximum temperature no higher than -0.1 degrees Celsius. It can also be used to refer to a 24-hour period of temperatures below freezing in a smaller area, but this is less common.

This differs from a frostdøgn, where the minimum temperature is -0.1C or lower in a certain area for a full day.

Last week saw isdøgn occur in Denmark as blizzards and heavy rain were followed by a plunge in temperatures, severely disrupting transport.

The last cold winter, in 2021, saw the total number of isdøgn reach 15.9. according to national meteorological agency DMI (fractions are recorded when the isdøgn doesn’t cover the entire country).


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